The Tsukiji Market was once a wholesale market for professionals and a place that tourists frequently visited. Particularly famous was the morning fish market where freshly caught fish would be cut and sold in large open areas of the market. Nowadays, the wholesale fish market has since moved to Toyosu (about 2 km away) back in 2018. However, this doesn’t mean that the Outer Tsukiji Market isn’t worth visiting.
Colorful slices of fresh-sliced sashimi, dried seaweed, fruits, vegetables, single-servings of food, and kitchen utensils; you can find all this and more at the Outer Market in Tsukiji. In fact, many of the shops in the Outer Market simply bring their wares from Toyosu. In the Outer Market, there are buildings that are more than 80 years old. Many owners still use the first floor for their shops and live on the upper floors above street level creating an intricate maze of homes and shops. But even with this layout, Tsukiji Outer Market is a fascinating place to visit and shop. Especially for sushi and sashimi aficionados.
The birth of the fish market as its known today began in 1657 when Edo was devastated by a great fire. Land was reclaimed from Tokyo Bay and named Tsukiji (築地), which means "constructed land". What was once a quiet living quarters for samurai families and shrines—one of which still sits at the back corner of the Tsukiji Market, "Namiyoke" offering protection from waves—became a hustling center of prosperous markets after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.
Even though half of the fish market has moved to Toyosu, the Outer Market remains a fascinating experience where tourists can rub elbows with locals and get a sense of where the fresh seafood of Tokyo comes from. The market typically opens for business at 9 am and goes on until 3 pm. This early closing time means that you want to get there early for the freshest foods before they sell out or are closed for the day.
Tokyo's wholesale fish market moved to Toyosu in October 2018. Note that many shops are closed on Sundays and some Wednesdays.